Your Light Will Come, Jerusalem.
This is the opening phrase of the short responsory for the weekdays of Advent and here at the monastery we sing this responsory to the evocative soaring chant of the "Rorate Caeli". The full verse is, "Your light will come, Jerusalem. The Lord will dawn on you in radiant beauty."
Advent remains a penitential season for us: we have both fasting and abstinence. It is very different from Lent, though, for is full of an expectant joyousness. "The Lord will dawn on you in radiant beauty," we are reminded each morning when it is dark outside and the very first rays of the dawn are seen.
It's because of this hope for the promised Messiah that Advent is marked by purple vestments at Mass, purple candles on the Advent wreath (With that rose one to tease us.), and why it has a penitential character. This expectant longing is not just a pretty thought in our heads. It is the longing of the whole person: body, soul, and spirit.
On Christmas eve the office of the day is pitched to a yearning that breaks forth with I Vespers of Christmas. "Crastina die": "tomorrow will be the day of your salvation. Tomorrow will be the day when the sinfulness of earth will be destroyed." Tomorrow! we sing in our hearts as we go about the many, many last minute tasks in transforming chapel, choir, monastery, and not the least, our hearts, into a dwelling for the Infant Savior.
The last poinsettia is in place, the altar linens are changed, the refectory, community room, parlour, novitiate, etc. are all decorated and cleaned and the bell rings for I Vespers which opens the feast of Christmas. The Church can't wait until Midnight to proclaim the message of Salvation! Hodie! "Today you will know that the Lord will come!" He is almost here! "In the morning you will see his glory!" And because the Church has one foot in Eternity it reminds us that Christmas is not just about a little baby lying in straw but it is about the Bridegroom coming again to bring all things into one in Him. So, we sing also, "At dawn, when the sun rises from the heavens, you will see the King of kings, coming forth from the Father, as a bridegroom comes forth from the bridal chamber."
One of the beautiful gifts of living in liturgical time as we do here in the monastery and as every Catholic should, is that Christmas begins at First Vespers and continues throughout the Octave. For 8 days we live in this Today in which we can contemplate and adore the WORD made flesh, the WORD dwelling among us, with us and in us.